Extreme heat precautions for families facing Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association

Now that restrictions are loosening and days are longer, families are going outside more often and enjoying activities they haven’t experienced in months. Precautions must be made during the extreme heat for all families - but especially for those living with dementia. Taking measures to plan ahead for extreme heat, can prevent injuries and help a person with the disease feel more relaxed and comfortable. Additionally, it’s important to prevent wandering, which can be extremely harmful, even deadly, during times of high temperatures.

To help families during this time, the Alzheimer’s Association has tips for those facing dementia to prepare for extreme heat conditions and prevent wandering.

• Plan ahead. Family and friends should prepare accordingly and make plans to regularly check-in on a person living with dementia during extreme heat. Arrange alternative plans for cooler spaces, if air conditioning is unavailable, and dress in loose, light clothing.

• Stay hydrated. Increased water intake is essential to maintaining good hydration and health during extreme heat. Know the signs of heat exhaustion to avoid heat stroke. Dehydration may be difficult to notice in a person living with dementia, as signs like increased fatigue, dry mouth and headache may be difficult to detect.

• Pay attention at night. Keep people living with dementia cool by using fans and keeping the air conditioning on. At night, low temperatures can still exceed 75 degrees with little fluctuation in humidity levels, making for difficult, exacerbating sleeping conditions, heightened anxiety and increased agitation.

• Stay informed. Keep an eye on local weather forecasts. High temperatures are not the only cause for concern. Humidity and air pollution indices can cause breathing difficulties. The person should be monitored regularly and seek medical attention if symptoms of dehydration or heat exhaustion last for more than one hour.

It’s common for a person living with dementia to wander or become lost or confused about their location, and it can happen at any stage of the disease. Six in 10 people living with dementia will wander at least once; many do so repeatedly. Although common, wandering can be dangerous — even life-threatening – especially during times of extreme weather, such as high temperatures.

The Alzheimer’s Association has prepared tips to help families keep their loved ones safe.

• Learn tips that may reduce the risk of wandering. Provide opportunities for the person to engage in structured, meaningful activities throughout the day. Avoid busy places that are confusing and can cause disorientation, such as shopping malls. Assess the person’s response to new surroundings. Do not leave someone with dementia unsupervised if new surroundings may cause confusion, disorientation or agitation.

• Prepare your home. Consider what precautions to take to keep your loved one safe, such as placing deadbolts out of the line of sight, using night lights throughout the home, installing safety covers on doorknobs, and setting up a security system that alerts you when doors are opened.

• Plan ahead. Consider enrolling the person living with dementia in a wandering response service. Ask neighbors, friends and family to call if they see the person wandering, lost or dressed inappropriately. Keep a recent, close-up photo of the person on hand to give to police, should the need arise. Create a list of places the person might wander to, such as past jobs, former homes, places of worship or a favorite restaurant.

To learn more about extreme heat safety precautions and wandering prevention, visit alz.org.

About the Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. Visit alz.org or call 800.272.3900.